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The current mess and ‘Dependency Syndrome’

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By Vishnuguptha

“If you want to be a slave in life, then continue going around asking others to do for you. They will oblige, but you will find the price is your choices, your freedom, your life itself. They will do for you, and as a result you will be in bondage to them forever, having given your identity away for a paltry price. Then, and only then, will you be a nobody, a slave, because you yourself and nobody else made it so.”

― Terry Goodkind, The Pillars of Creation

They all come to power promising heaven and earth; populist appeals have delivered many an election since 1956 in Sri Lanka. Yet, they never seem to run out of such election-themes, which on their face value, appear to be unreservedly attractive and vote-catching. However, when one looks deep into the validity of those promises and pledges, they have always proven to be decisively damaging to the abiding interests of the country and her people. Policies and principles based on long-term development, both economic and social, that had been pronounced and attempted to be implemented had fallen by the wayside.

The hartal

The first of these attempts at remedying the situation that was leading to the impeding economic gloom was in 1953, when the then Minister of Finance, J.R. Jayewardene under the Dudley Senanayake Government, proposed a cut in the rice-subsidy. The Opposition at the time, led by Dr. N.M. Perera and the rest of the left-wing political forces, created havoc by way of the now-famous (or infamous) hartal. The result was the resignation of Prime Minister, Dudley Senanayake and a devastating damage to the close personal friendship he enjoyed with Jayewardene up to that time. This feud between Dudley and JR came to a closure only in 1972. JR’s proposal to lift the rice-subsidy would have been the first of such attempts to make our country free of the ‘dependency syndrome’ that has taken a heavy toll on our country’s collective psyche, making the average man almost rise in arms when any attempt at the revision of the ‘free-this and free-that’ policies adopted by successive governments since 1956, is made.

The fate that befell the JR proposal, also took its toll on a similar proposal pronounced by Felix Dias Bandaranaike in the early 60s. But this time it was the rest of the Cabinet of the Sirimavo Bandaranaike Government led by the likes of C.P. de Silva and other right-wing politicians who rebelled against the Felix-proposals. By this time the ‘dependency syndrome’ has taken deep root in our people. Caught up in the left-wing verbiage of sadukin pelenawun den ithin negitiyavu (those who are hungry, now rise up), the masses had got used to this comfort zone of government subsidies. Developed countries also render government subsidies, but they provide those subsidies in the circumstances of disasters that are of incalculable dimensions and consequences. In those developed nations, these subsidies are essentially the exception, not the norm.

In Sri Lanka, like in many other countries in the so-called Third World, who are not likely to reach the gates of development soon, the damaging propensity to depend on government handouts, not as a once-in-a-generation exception, but as a routine mode of living, has not only damaged the country’s export-oriented economy, but has helped to establish a long-term psychological ‘dependency syndrome’ in the people’s psyche as a whole, which is shameless to say the least. It has been reported that there is one government servant for every 16 citizens in the country. Should we not be ashamed of such a lopsided picture of our collective life and living in this country?


The writer had the opportunity to speak to some of the graduates who have been employed in the Government sector through the so-called graduate-scheme and it is utterly distressing to report that not a single one of those graduates has been offered a familiarization session prior to their assuming duties or a single lesson on motivation and dedication to work. Almost all have told the writer that they accepted the job for the sake of its offer of salary and the subsequent pension. Whenever they were offered alternative employment in the private sector, their answer has been that they did not want to work there because there is too much work and lack of job-security in that sector. Such an indictment on a populace is alarming and its spread is ever-expanding.

To come back to the sequence of this strange but ‘real’ life-time phenomenon of ‘dependency syndrome’, one would always find that a non-UNP-led government has tended to fill the government departments, corporations and other boards and authorities with their political supporters in order to secure continuing support at elections. Instead of minimizing the government involvement in the daily lives of our people, they have been, by virtue of their outdated economic principles and policies, creating government-sector monsters, causing serious economic and fiscal burdens on the country’s coffers. The trend that was set in 1956, with the dawn of the ‘common man’s government’ has continued without a break to date. Instead of a shrinking government sector, we are witnessing an ever-expanding one, swallowing up the country’s precious financial resources in terms of salaries, EPF, ETF and other allowances. An unproductive work force is the last thing one can have in any workplace; the demotivating dynamic it sets in, would have lasting negative repercussions to the general economy and its play on the individual psyche of both parties, the redundant employee and the outstanding one, and would eventually lead the economy as well as the people to sheer apathy and of course a false sense of comfort. The gradual adoption of mediocrity as the norm is quite evident in today’s society.

‘Dependency syndrome’

However, the current regime led by Mahinda Rajapaksa and his neo-socialist Cabinet, has decided to play with this ‘dependency syndrome’ of our people to the hilt and the short-term electoral gains have been fantastic for the party in power. What followed the war-victory in May, 2009 has been a classic case of bungle after bungle, exaggerated by gross inefficiency and incompetence at every level, from political to administrative to law-enforcing. There has never been a government more riddled with incompetence in management of affairs in our short post-independence history. Blatant abuse of political power to stamp its distasteful impression on the judiciary, outright corruption at all levels of society, unconstrained nepotism to create a grandiose dynasty, demand for subservient loyalty of their cohorts and henchmen, unbridled enriching of the politicians’ pockets and the shameless abuse of State-controlled media for the propaganda of one single family have been the hallmarks of this era.

The total absence of competence and efficiency in the major government departments such as Education, Examinations and Public Administration and the laughable but criminal way funds are mismanaged in corporations have in turn, led to the catastrophic handling of the two most critical corporations in the country, the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation and the Ceylon Electricity Board resulting in massive payments to outside sources (Hedging deal and so forth). Condoning the most bizarre and despicable behaviour of some Cabinet members and parliamentarians, physical attacks on members of the Judiciary, White Van episodes, missing members of the fourth estate, botched attempts at the Geneva Human Rights fora and the callous disregard of the ‘minority rights’ issue are the indicators present in the social sphere, yet the government carries on as if it is doing the whole country a favour.

Abrogation of the 13th Amendment

The latest enactments on this grand theatre of government abuse and misuses, are the impending abrogation of the 13th Amendment and the impeachment motion against the current Chief Justice. If the government thinks that the war victory gave them a carte blanche to deprive the basic human rights of another ethnic group, which has been enjoying all freedoms enshrined in our Constitution as equal partners in the Sri Lankan family of communities, they are only making a very strong case for a future eruption of violence and uproar of a worse kind. The government must do things not because they are expedient or politically advantageous but because they are the right things to do. If they don’t show such a spine and a bold and righteous mind, their days are numbered. Major dictatorial figures in history have fallen at the feet of public outcry. From Hitler to Marcos to Saddam Hussein, they all thought that they would be reigning forever. It’s time that the government realized the impermanence of power, for refusal to see such universal truths can be fatal, not only for them, but for the country and her people too.COURTESY:CEYLON TODAY

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